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1 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES EDUCATION AND THE ARTS ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORTATION INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. This electronic document was made available from as a public service of the RAND Corporation. LAW AND BUSINESS NATIONAL SECURITY POPULATION AND AGING Skip all front matter: Jump to Page 16 PUBLIC SAFETY SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY TERRORISM AND HOMELAND SECURITY Support RAND Purchase this document Browse Reports & Bookstore Make a charitable contribution For More Information Visit RAND at Explore RAND Education View document details Limited Electronic Distribution Rights This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law as indicated in a notice appearing later in this work. This electronic representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for non-commercial use only. Unauthorized posting of RAND electronic documents to a non-rand website is prohibited. RAND electronic documents are protected under copyright law. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of our research documents for commercial use. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please see RAND Permissions.

2 This product is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

3 Making Summer Count How Summer Programs Can Boost Children s Learning JENNIFER SLOAN MCCOMBS CATHERINE H. AUGUSTINE HEATHER L. SCHWARTZ SUSAN J. BODILLY BRIAN MCINNIS DAHLIA S. LICHTER AMANDA BROWN CROSS Commissioned by EDUCATION

4 The research in this report was produced within RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation. The research was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available for this publication. ISBN The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors. R is a registered trademark. Cover photograph courtesy Media Bakery Copyright 2011 RAND Corporation Permission is given to duplicate this document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND documents to a non-rand website is prohibited. RAND documents are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND permissions page (http://www.rand.org/publications/permissions.html). Published 2011 by the RAND Corporation 1776 Main Street, P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, CA South Hayes Street, Arlington, VA Fifth Avenue, Suite 600, Pittsburgh, PA RAND URL: To order RAND documents or to obtain additional information, contact Distribution Services: Telephone: (310) ; Fax: (310) ;

5 Preface Summer learning programs have the potential to help children and youth improve their academic and other outcomes. This is especially true for children from low-income families who might not have access to educational resources throughout the summer months and for low-achieving students who need additional time to master academic content. However, summer learning programs are often an afterthought of school districts or not offered at all, especially in restrictive funding environments. To focus attention on the potential of such programs, this monograph reviews the literature on summer learning loss and the effectiveness of summer learning programs, determines key cost drivers of and available funds for summer programs, and gathers information about how such programs operate in district and city contexts, including facilitators and challenges. The findings should be of interest to policymakers and practitioners involved in improving the performance of and expanding opportunities for low-income and lowachieving students, including school district and city leaders, the National Summer Learning Association, the Council of the Great City Schools, the U.S. Department of Education, funders of summer learning programs, state departments of education, state legislators, and the education research community. This research was conducted by RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation, and sponsored by The Wallace Foundation, which seeks to support and share effective ideas and practices to improve learning and enrichment opportunities for children. Its current objectives are to improve the quality of schools, primarily by developing and placing effective principals in high-need schools; improve the quality of and access to out-of-school-time programs through coordinated city systems and by strengthening the financial management skills of providers; integrate in- and out-ofschool learning by supporting efforts to reimagine and expand learning time during the traditional school day and year as well as during the summer months, helping to expand access to arts learning, and using technology as a tool for teaching and promoting creativity and imagination. For more information about research on these and other related topics, please visit The Wallace Foundation Knowledge Center at www. wallacefoundation.org. iii

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7 Contents Preface... iii Figures... ix xi Tables... Summary...xiii Acknowledgments... xxi Abbreviations... xxiii CHAPTER ONE Introduction... 1 Policy Context... 1 Research Questions... 2 Summer Learning Programs and Site Selection... 3 Analytic Approach... 4 Conceptual Framework... 4 Data and Methods... 7 Study Limitations...14 Organization of This Monograph...15 CHAPTER TWO Time, Learning, Learning Decay, and Summer Learning Loss...17 General Relationship Between Time and Learning...17 Time and Learning in and out of School...18 Summer Learning Loss Average Summer Loss of Learning Differences by Family Income...21 Cumulative Effects of Summer Learning Loss Differences by Subject and Grade Level Conclusions v

8 vi Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children s Learning CHAPTER THREE Effectiveness of Summer Learning Programs Effectiveness of Summer Learning Programs Overall Effectiveness Subject Demographic Groups...29 Grade...29 Attendance Long-Term Effects Nonacademic Outcomes...32 Components of Quality Summer Learning Programs...32 Smaller Class Sizes...32 Differentiated Instruction...32 High-Quality Instruction...33 Aligned School-Year and Summer Curricula...33 Engaging and Rigorous Programming...33 Maximized Participation and Attendance...33 Sufficient Duration Involved Parents Evaluations of Effectiveness Conclusions CHAPTER FOUR Costs of Summer Programming...37 Evidence from the Literature...37 Cost Estimates for Select Summer Learning Programs Sources of Cost Variation Across Programs Core Services: Central Office and Site-Based Instructional and Administrative Costs Supportive Services: Meals, Facilities, and Transportation...47 How Summer Costs Compare to School-Year Costs...49 Financial Sources for Summer School Programming...49 Federal Funding Sources State Funding Sources...52 Private Funding Sources...53 Putting It All Together: Achieving Stable Funding Streams Conclusions...55 CHAPTER FIVE Creating and Maintaining Summer Learning Programs: Lessons from the Field...57 Purposes and Commitments...57 Overcoming Barriers to Launching and Maintaining Programs...59 Early Challenges...59

9 Contents vii Ongoing Challenges Barriers to Scale Overcoming Barriers Quality Program Components...63 Smaller Class Sizes and Differentiated Instruction High-Quality Instruction Aligned School-Year and Summer Curricula...65 Engaging and Rigorous Programming...65 Maximized Participation and Attendance...65 Sufficient Duration Involved Parents Evaluations of Effectiveness Lessons on Where and How to Offer Programs...67 Conclusions CHAPTER SIX Conclusions and Recommendations...71 Recommendations for Districts and Providers...72 Invest in Highly Qualified Staff and Early Planning...73 Embed Promising Practices into Summer Learning Programs...73 Consider Partnerships When Developing Summer Learning Programs...73 Think Creatively About Funding...73 Recommendations for Policymakers and Funders...74 Extend the Research Base...74 Support Consistent Funding Sources for Summer Learning Programs...75 Provide Clear Guidance Regarding the Use of Scarce Funds...75 APPENDIX Approach to Cost Estimates for Summer Learning Programs References... 87

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11 Figures 1.1. Conceptual Framework for District-Provided Summer Learning Programs Cost Estimates for Selected Summer Learning Programs, per Slot per Summer, Cost Estimates for Core Summer Services, per Slot per Hour, ix

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13 Tables 1.1. Interviews, by Type Sites Visited and Programming Types Average Annual Gains in Effect Size from Nationally Normed Tests, by Grade National Summer Learning Association Quality Standards Estimates per Enrollee from Existing Studies of Summer Programming Costs Programmatic Structure of Selected Summer Learning Programs...45 A.1. Cost Categories on a per-slot, per-summer Basis...82 A.2. Incremental Additional Costs of Ingredients on a per-slot Basis A.3. Cost Categories on a per-enrollee, per-summer Basis...85 xi

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15 Summary During summer vacation, many students lose knowledge and skills. By the end of summer, students perform, on average, one month behind where they left off in the spring. Of course, not all students experience average losses. Summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income students. While all students lose some ground in mathematics over the summer, low-income students lose more ground in reading, while their higher-income peers may even gain. Most disturbing is that summer learning loss is cumulative; over time, the difference between the summer learning rates of low-income and higher-income students contributes substantially to the achievement gap. Because many students lose learning over the summer and some students need more time on task to master content, participation in summer learning programs should mitigate learning loss and could even produce achievement gains. Indeed, educators and policymakers are increasingly promoting summer learning as a key strategy to improving the achievement of low-performing students. In 2009, a Johns Hopkins University based center for summer learning became an independent organization, the National Summer Learning Association, providing resources, guidance, and expertise to the summer learning community. In 2010, President Obama noted, Students are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer. 1 Earlier that year, First Lady Michelle Obama launched United We Serve: Let s Read, Let s Move, a program that encourages Americans to fight the summer reading gap, acknowledging that youth who do not read during the summer can lose months of academic progress (White House, 2010). Study Purpose and Research Questions The Wallace Foundation is encouraging the establishment of district-supported summer learning programs, particularly for urban students in grades 1 8. To support this effort, The Foundation asked RAND to conduct a study to assess both the need 1 The remark was made during an interview on NBC s Today Show, September 27, xiii

16 xiv Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children s Learning for summer learning programs and the existing evidence on effective, viable, and sustainable summer learning programs in urban districts. In this monograph, we address the following research questions: 1. What is the nature of summer learning loss? 2. Are summer learning programs effective in improving student achievement? What are the elements of effective summer programs? 3. How much do summer learning programs cost? 4. What are the facilitators and challenges to implementing summer programs? Data and Methods To answer our first two research questions, we conducted literature reviews on summer learning loss and the effectiveness of summer learning programs. To examine cost, we conducted a literature review to identify common funding sources for summer programs, collected detailed cost data from seven summer learning programs, and determined their costs and the primary reasons for the variation among them. To address the final question, regarding facilitators and challenges to implementing such programs, we conducted 15 telephone interviews: eight with providers (either school districts or programs affiliated with school districts) and seven with national nondistrict providers. We also conducted site visits to five cities, where we interviewed summer learning leaders from among city and district representatives, summer learning staff, and external partners (more than 60 interviews in total). In four of the cities, we had the opportunity to observe summer learning. Cities selected for interviews and site visits were those that had a long history of providing summer programs or were considered by the national organizations to have particularly innovative programming or a particular context of interest, such as city-led programming or high proportions of English language learners. Limitations and Contributions This monograph does not include any independent analyses to determine the nature of summer learning loss or summer program effectiveness. Instead, it summarizes and draws out lessons from a set of existing research. While our independent cost analysis provides much-needed information for the field, it is limited to seven cases of academically oriented summer programming that operate at scale. Thus, it does not capture the cost range of all types of summer learning programs. In addition, because our findings and recommendations are drawn from a limited sample of summer programs that are

17 Summary xv not representative of all summer learning program contexts, they are not generalizable to all programs. In particular, by design, we spent more time studying programs provided by school districts than we did studying those provided by national or community-based summer learning providers. We also made no attempt to assess the quality of the summer programs that we visited. Despite these limitations, this monograph makes an important contribution to the field by addressing both the value and the cost of summer learning programs. We synthesize evidence from the research about summer learning loss and the effectiveness of summer learning programs in preventing that loss. We also estimate the potential costs of such programs and provide lessons learned from districts and other providers about how to fund, implement, and sustain such programs. Key Findings Summer Learning Loss, Which Is Disproportionate and Cumulative, Contributes Substantially to the Achievement Gap Research indicates that, on average, students lose skills over the summer, particularly in mathematics. However, not all students experience average losses, and summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income students. Low-income students lose substantial ground in reading during the summer, while their higher-income peers often gain. Most disturbing is that it appears that summer learning loss is cumulative and that, over time, these periods of differential learning rates between low-income and higher-income students contribute substantially to the achievement gap in reading. It may be that efforts to close the achievement gap during the school year alone will be unsuccessful. Students Who Attend Summer Programs Have Better Outcomes Than Similar Peers Who Do Not Attend These Programs Rigorous studies of voluntary summer programs, mandatory summer programs, and programs that encourage students to read at home in the summer have all found positive effects on student achievement. The combined evidence from these studies suggests that all of these types of summer learning programs can mitigate summer learning losses and even lead to achievement gains. Moreover, longitudinal studies conclude that the effects of summer learning programs endure for at least two years after the student has engaged in the summer program. (No studies have examined whether effects last beyond two years.) Strategies for Maximizing Quality, Enrollment, and Attendance Are Critical to Achieving Benefits Not all summer learning programs result in positive outcomes for enrollees. Programming needs to be high-quality, and students need to enroll and attend regularly.

18 xvi Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children s Learning Research points to several practices that are associated with program quality, including individualized instruction, parental involvement, and small class sizes. For voluntary summer learning programs, providers need to adopt targeted strategies to build enrollment and maximize attendance among enrollees. Several effective strategies were offered by the program staff we interviewed. Notifying parents early before they make other plans for the summer was important in maximizing enrollment. Offering engaging enrichment activities, providing transportation, and offering full-day programs, which better suit the needs of working families, were noted as methods of increasing enrollment and encouraging high attendance rates. Cost Is the Main Barrier to Implementing Summer Learning Programs Providing a high-quality summer learning program can cost between $1,109 and $2,801 per child for a six-hour-per-day, five-week program. Although preliminary evidence suggests that the cost of summer school programs can be less than two-thirds of what providers spend on programs during the academic year (on a per-slot, per-week basis), summer programs nonetheless represent an additional cost to districts, especially relative to other interventions that simply update or reform practices used during the school year. Districts Question the Cost-Effectiveness of Summer Learning Programs, and Many Have Discontinued Them in Response to Budget Cuts Interviewees from the National Summer Learning Association indicated that, given the costs, districts are uncertain of the value they would get from a summer learning program. Furthermore, some of our interviewees who are currently offering summer learning programs questioned the extent to which the benefits of the program outweigh the costs. In fact, the recent economic downturn has created such severe shortfalls in state education budgets that many districts across the country have cut what little summer school programming they have offered. However, district leaders who are committed to such programs have found creative ways to fund them. Partnerships Can Strengthen Summer Learning Programs The majority of the summer learning programs examined in this study were provided by or operated in partnership with districts, and we found benefits from these partnerships. We found that summer learning programs cost less when offered by school districts due, in part, to lower central office costs and in-kind contributions of services, such as facilities and meals. In addition, districts can leverage consistent sources of funding (e.g., Title I or general operating funds) for such programs, creating a greater likelihood of sustainment. We also found that partnerships between districts and community-based organizations (CBOs) provided increased benefits and lowered costs. CBOs offered opportunities for enrichment beyond those typically offered in schools, such as kayaking and fencing, that encouraged students to enroll and attend steps

19 Summary xvii critical to program effectiveness. We also found that CBO instructors were less expensive than certified teachers. Thus, partnerships between these two types of organizations resulted in lower costs overall. Further, in one city, provision of enrichment opportunities attracted local foundation funding for summer programs. Developing and Sustaining District-Based Voluntary Summer Learning Programs Is Challenging but Feasible Interviewees reported that launching a summer learning program that serves a high proportion of low-performing students is challenging. Early implementation challenges include establishing consistent expectations for the program, navigating internal district bureaucracies, and partnering with local CBOs. Ongoing challenges to maintaining a summer learning program include funding (particularly during times of constrained school budgets), facilities constraints due to building maintenance or lack of air conditioning, low or uncertain enrollment, and an underspecified or unsupported vision for the summer program. Interviewees also reported that the lack of evaluations and teacher contract rules threatened the quality of their programs. Despite these challenges, some urban districts have long-standing summer learning programs, and others have launched new programs over the last few years. Challenges can be overcome by supportive leaders who can find and dedicate funding, as well as ensure that qualified staff devote time to early planning, early hiring, and early recruiting for summer learning programs. Recommendations for Districts and Providers Districts and communities must decide for themselves whether the potential value of these programs is worth the cost and effort of establishing and sustaining them. But our analysis suggests that they should be seriously considered within the context of the needs and resources available to districts and communities. Rigorous studies have shown that strong summer programs can achieve several important goals: reverse summer learning loss, achieve learning gains, and give low-performing students the chance to master material that they did not learn during the previous school year. Here, we offer a set of recommendations for districts and other providers that want to invest in summer learning programs. Specifically, we recommend that districts and providers invest in staffing and planning for summer learning programs, actively incorporate practices that will help ensure the success of programs, and maximize the benefits of partnerships and a variety of funding sources. Invest in Highly Qualified Staff and Early Planning Developing high-quality summer programs can be challenging. We found that providers that succeeded in developing a well-structured program that attracted students

20 xviii Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children s Learning to enroll and attend had high-quality, dedicated year-round administrators with time devoted to planning and programming. Planning began early in the school year. Early planning allowed programs to conduct early hiring (thereby maximizing their teacher recruiting pool) and early recruiting (thereby maximizing student enrollment). Embed Promising Practices into Summer Learning Programs Research shows that a number of practices are associated with improved student outcomes, such as smaller class sizes, involving parents, providing individualized instruction, and maximizing students attendance. Other best practices include providing structures that support high-quality instruction, aligning the school year and summer curricula, including content beyond remediation, and tracking effectiveness. Providers also need to adopt strategies for attracting students to these programs to ensure value for their investment, such as print and radio advertising; advertising at community meetings, summer learning fairs, and even grocery stores; targeted recruiting of students living in housing projects, including door-to-door recruiting and phone calls to parents; student and teacher focus groups; and CBO recruiting among students in their after-school programs. Consider Partnerships When Developing Summer Learning Programs Partnerships may enable the creation and sustainment of high-quality voluntary summer learning programs. We found benefits from partnerships between school districts and CBOs that included a wider variety of programming options, and more varied funding sources. However, a number of other partnerships may be beneficial, as several types of organizations have an interest in promoting summer learning experiences for youth districts, CBOs, private summer learning providers, cities, and local funders. Each of these organizations has a set of resources and skills that can help build sustainable summer learning programs. We encourage leaders to consider all local resources and build appropriate partnerships when developing these programs. Think Creatively About Funding There are several pots of funding from which districts can draw to support summer learning programs. Researchers have documented, for example, more than 100 programs that can support summer learning. The National Summer Learning Association provides guidelines for funding summer learning programs on its website. This monograph provides other funding ideas, such as hiring AmeriCorps students and hiring teachers who need administrative hours to serve as summer site coordinators. Partnering with local CBOs can also result in economies of scale, as noted earlier.

21 Summary xix Recommendations for Policymakers and Funders Finally, we offer recommendations for policymakers and funders who are interested in supporting summer learning programs: Extend the research base on the efficacy of summer learning programs and support stable funding for new and existing programs. Extend the Research Base Although research has established the efficacy of summer learning programs, it has not tested several aspects of such programs when offered to large numbers of lowperforming students in urban settings. Rigorous, longitudinal research on large programs would provide valuable information to policymakers and practitioners. In particular, we make the following recommendations: Conduct randomized controlled trials of programs designed to maximize attendance that compare treated to nontreated students over multiple years. Conduct studies that include multiple outcomes beyond academic performance: secondary academic outcomes, such as school attendance and graduation rates, and nonacademic outcomes, such as reductions in juvenile delinquency, improved nutrition, and increases in exercise. Including a range of outcomes will help motivate other stakeholders, such as city governments, to support or fund summer learning programs. Conduct studies that examine whether programs can be constructed to attract high levels of participation in multiple, consecutive years of programming. If so, the studies should evaluate the effects of consecutive years of participation on a range of student outcomes. Conduct studies of the cost-effectiveness of summer learning programs to help district leaders and other policymakers consider how best to invest in improving education. Support Consistent Funding Sources for Summer Learning Programs A key obstacle to providing summer learning programs is a lack of stable funding. Policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels can work to provide funding for summer programming by specifying that existing funding targeted to high-need youth can be used for summer programming, by establishing new funding for programs, and by fundraising for summer programming. The school district officials whom we spoke with who run summer learning programs independently confirmed that funding was contingent on the support of key leaders, including the superintendent, local politicians, and local foundations.

22 xx Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children s Learning Provide Clear Guidance Regarding the Use of Scarce Funds District leaders described the difficulty of braiding multiple funding sources together, given the restrictions and requirements associated with each source of funds. State policymakers could support district efforts by providing clear guidance on how federal and state funds can be combined to support summer programs.

23 Acknowledgments Many people helped in conducting this study and producing this monograph. We would like to thank those at The Wallace Foundation for their substantive and financial support. In particular, Edward Pauly and Ann Stone provided valuable guidance on the intellectual and analytic components of our work. Dara Rose, Richard Laine, Christine DeVita, Pam Mendels, and Lucas Held provided other substantive insights. Representatives from school districts, mayors offices, CBOs, and local provider organizations also contributed their time and expertise, especially on implementation issues and cost. Representatives from some of the national provider organizations were very generous with their time and expertise and contributed substantially to the study, especially in providing details on likely costs. The document itself benefited from the input of internal and external reviewers, including Lynn Karoly and Geoffrey Borman, and from the contributions of Laura Zakaras and Lauren Skrabala, who helped prepare the final manuscript. We acknowledge their help in improving this document. xxi

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25 Abbreviations 21st CCLC ARRA BELL CBO CCDF CDBG CPI CWI ECLS-K ERIC FTE OST SES TANF 21st Century Community Learning Centers program American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Building Educated Leaders for Life community-based organization Child Care and Development Fund Community Development Block Grant Consumer Price Index Comparable Wage Index Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class Education Resources Information Center full-time equivalent out-of-school time socioeconomic status Temporary Assistance for Needy Families xxiii

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27 CHAPTER ONE Introduction Policy Context Despite steady efforts to close the large achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged students over the past 40 years, significant discrepancies remain. In 2009, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 49 percent of low-income fourthgrade students scored at the below basic level in reading (the lowest proficiency level) compared with 20 percent of their higher-income students. Large achievement gaps exist for mathematics as well, with 30 percent of low-income students performing at the lowest performance level compared with only 9 percent of their higher-income peers. These trends also hold in the eighth grade, where the differences are 40 percent versus 15 percent in reading and 43 percent versus 17 percent in mathematics (U.S. Department of Education, undated). Due to the inequitable proportion of low-income minority students, similarly sized achievement gaps are found between white and black children in the United States, white and Hispanic children, and native speakers and English language learners. Depending on the subject and grade level, there has been either a modest reduction or no substantive change in the achievement gap along economic or racial lines since the 1990s. These achievement gaps are particularly troubling because they comport with subsequent inequities in educational attainment, in which students from the bottom quartile of the income distribution are more than twice as likely to drop out of high school as students from the top quartile of the distribution (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). Failure to complete high school has significant ramifications for the individuals themselves and for society as a whole because formal schooling is an increasingly important gateway to future employment, earnings, and attendant life chances (Belfield and Levin, 2007). Some analysts believe that closing the achievement gap would do more to promote equality in the United States than any other political strategy (Jencks and Phillips, 1998). Increasingly, educators and policymakers are considering additional learning time to be a key strategy for improving the achievement of low-performing students, many of whom are also low-income. For instance, Title I legislation specifies summer learning time as a key strategy that can be used to turn around schools. In fact, research 1

28 2 Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children s Learning evidence shows (1) that students skills and knowledge often deteriorate during the summer months, and low-income students face larger losses than other students (Cooper, Charlton, et al., 2000), and (2) that low-achieving students need additional time on task to master academic content (Brown and Saks, 1986; Walberg, 1988; Ketterlin-Geller, Chard, and Fien, 2008). As a result, instruction during the summer has the potential to stop losses that might occur and to propel students toward higher achievement. Three approaches to preventing summer learning loss are offered most often: modifying the school calendar, extending the school year, and providing summer school. Modifying the school calendar does not add instructional days to the calendar, but it redistributes days across the calendar to replace the long summer break with several shorter breaks. Unfortunately, the quality of current evidence regarding the effectiveness of modified calendars is poor (Cooper, Valentine, et al., 2003). Extending the school year would provide students with additional days of instruction. In an interview on the Today Show, President Obama called for a longer school year, citing the fact that U.S. students go to school, on average, a month less than students in other developed countries. He also noted that this means that students are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer. 1 The clear challenge to extending the school year is its cost. In addition, in cities across the country, districts that have tried to extend the school year (or modify the calendar) have met resistance from parents, employers of teenagers, and family recreation businesses. And data suggest that more time was cut away from the instructional calendar in the school year as fiscal pressures forced school districts to weigh options to furlough teachers or shorten the instructional calendar. For instance, 16 of the 30 largest school districts in California reduced the number of school days to balance their budgets, and 12 districts cut instructional time by the maximum of five days (Benefield, 2010; Freedberg, 2010). Summer programs, the focus of this monograph, are less costly than extending the school year because they are typically offered only to a subset of students. Thus, they may be more attractive to cost-conscious districts. They also provide the opportunity to give low-income students additional instruction that could help close local achievement gaps and give struggling students additional time on task so they can master material already learned by their peers. Research Questions As part of its interest in expanding opportunities for students to learn outside of the school day, The Wallace Foundation wants to encourage district-supported summer 1 The remark was made during an interview on NBC s Today Show, September 27, 2010.

29 Introduction 3 learning programs, particularly for urban students in grades 1 8. To support this effort, The Foundation asked RAND to conduct a study to assess both the need for summer learning programs and the existing evidence on effective, viable, and sustainable summer learning programs in urban districts. Specifically, this monograph addresses the following research questions: 1. What is the nature of summer learning loss? 2. Are summer learning programs effective in improving student achievement? What are the elements of effective summer programs? 3. How much do summer learning programs cost? 4. What are the facilitators and challenges to implementing summer programs? Summer Learning Programs and Site Selection Summer programs vary along a number of dimensions: Instructional purpose. Some programs serve low-performing students and provide remedial instruction, focusing on skills that students failed to master during the school year. Other programs serve both low- and higher-performing students and focus on skills that a student will encounter in the upcoming school year, to prepare students to master the material. Type of provider. Summer learning programs are offered by school districts, national providers that operate a program in multiple cities across the country, and local providers that operate only within a particular city or region. Voluntary or mandatory. Another way in which programs vary is the extent to which they are voluntary or mandatory. Voluntary programs recruit students who may or may not choose to attend. Mandatory programs are typically provided for students who are at risk of being retained in grade, as the threat of retention becomes the method of mandating program attendance. However, even mandatory programs are not strictly mandatory parents may choose to not send their child to summer school, and the student can try to test into the next grade in the fall without having attended a summer program. Dosage. Summer learning programs typically operate for anywhere between four and eight weeks during the summer for four or five days per week. Hours of programming vary as well. All the summer learning programs described in this monograph provide half-day academic instruction in reading and/or mathematics. However, many of the programs we studied operate for a full day and also offer enrichment activities. Enrichment may be provided by regular teachers or by

30 4 Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children s Learning community-based organizations (CBOs). 2 Some summer learning programs specifically offer enrichment activities that are intended to address the opportunity gap, in that they provide low-income students with opportunities that are similar to those that middle- and higher-income students have during the summer. Setting. Summer learning programs operate inside and outside the classroom. The majority of summer programs discussed here are those in which students attend a summer school site that operates for a designated number of hours and weeks over the summer. These programs can be operated in schools or outside of schools (e.g., at CBOs or college campuses). Researchers have also studied reading-at-home summer interventions. These programs send or mail books home to students, appropriately matched to their reading level and interests, to read over the course of the summer. In addition, prior to the summer, teachers might provide some scaffolding that provides students with strategies to use when reading the books over the summer. Analytic Approach By drawing on existing literature, program cost data, and interviews with leaders of national organizations, summer learning providers, school districts, and city governments, this study examined multiple aspects of the factors that influence urban districts student achievement (including loss and learning) during the summer. To answer our first two research questions on the extent of summer learning loss and the effectiveness of summer learning programs, we conducted literature reviews on summer learning loss and on the effectiveness of summer learning programs. To examine cost, we conducted a literature review to identify common funding sources for summer programs, collected detailed cost data from seven summer learning programs, and determined the programs costs and the primary reasons for the variation among them. To address our fourth research question, we conducted interviews with representatives from national organizations, national providers of summer learning programs, and district officials involved in providing summer programming to understand the factors that facilitate and challenge the implementation of summer programming for urban districts students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Conceptual Framework A basic conceptual framework for district-provided summer learning programs guided our study (see Figure 1.1). Given that breaks from school during the summer result in achievement loss for students and that some students need more time on task to master content, we expect that participation in summer learning programs can miti- 2 We define a CBO as a private or public nonprofit organization operating within the community it serves.

31 Introduction 5 Figure 1.1 Conceptual Framework for District-Provided Summer Learning Programs District Leadership Bargaining agreements Summer school staff recruitment techniques Funding Student recruitment techniques Dedicated staff for summer learning Partnerships External partners Community-based organizations Philanthropic organizations Families Private summer learning providers Low-income students and/or low-performing students RAND MG Program mediators Professional development Parent outreach Student-toinstructor ratio Transportation Food Summer programs Program components Number and length of sessions Content Quality of instruction Student mediators Student attendance Student engagement Typical summer activity Academic: Prevention of loss + gains contributing to narrowed achievement gap Nonacademic: Reduced delinquency, improved nutrition and fitness Secondary academic outcomes School attendance School persistence Behavior/attitudes Future academic performance Summer learning loss Contributing to widened achievement gap gate that loss and even produce achievement gains. This hypothesis is supported by prior research, described in Chapters Two and Three. By providing students with productive time on academic tasks during the summer, we expect that summer learning programs will result in improved achievement in the content areas covered by the program and will have nonacademic benefits as well. Student attendance in summer learning programs may decrease juvenile delinquency among older youth during the summer and improve students diet and level of exercise. 3 Further, students who are better prepared academically may reap future benefits such as improved school-year attendance reduced risk of being retained in grade 3 Researchers examining childhood obesity among kindergarten and first-grade students found that growth in body mass index is faster during the summer vacation than during the school year, especially among black and Hispanic children who are already overweight (Von Hippel et al., 2007).

32 6 Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children s Learning increased persistence in school, resulting in a greater likelihood of graduating improved socioemotional and behavioral outcomes, such as feeling more attached to school, having greater self-efficacy in subject areas, and having fewer disciplinary problems. Based on research on the effectiveness of instruction during the regular school year, we expect that the extent to which these outcomes are generated will depend on program components, student behavior, and district and program factors. Program components include the amount of instructional time, the curriculum used, and the quality of instruction. Clearly, student behaviors mediate the effectiveness of the program in that students must be present and engaged to benefit. A number of district and program factors may also influence the quality of programs, including professional development student-to-instructor ratio parent engagement activities funding strength of leadership dedication of staff student and staff recruitment techniques use of data for program improvement. These factors may also influence student participation and engagement. Program logistics, such as transportation and availability of food, may also influence student participation. The ability to develop partnerships among school districts, government organizations, philanthropic organizations, CBOs, and families may affect the quality of the program as well. Each of these entities has a set of resources and skills that can build sustainable summer learning programs. Districts can offer students, teachers, student data, facilities, central office management, transportation, food services, and curricular experts. CBOs can offer deep content knowledge in certain areas and can provide enrichment opportunities that go far beyond what is typically provided in schools. Private summer learning providers have vast experience in creating engaging summer academic programs that maximize attendance. Cities can offer funds, and they have an existing interest in keeping youth safe and engaged during the summer months. Local funders can bring additional resources to these programs and can be attracted by the promise of academic and nonacademic opportunities for youth. Partnerships could maximize these resources and expertise to support quality and sustainment.

33 Introduction 7 Data and Methods Summer Learning Loss. We modeled our literature search approach after the work of Cooper, Nye, et al. (1996), using keyword searches of computerized reference databases, sifting through reference lists for relevant sources, and leveraging the expertise of education researchers who are leaders in the out-of-school-time (OST) field. Cooper, Nye, et al. (1996) provide a rigorous summary of the early evidence of summer learning loss through an extensive meta-analysis of the research published between 1975 and The literature included in Cooper, Nye, et al. (1996) was found through the computerized reference databases ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) and PsychLIT using the following keywords: summer loss, summer vacation, summer break, summer intercession, summer school, and summer variations. We identified the work by Cooper, Nye, et al. (1996), Heyns (1978, 1987), and Entwistle and Alexander (1992) as the foundational studies on summer learning loss. We searched for studies that had referenced these pieces. Google Scholar indexed 294 publications that cited Cooper, Nye, et al. (1996); similar searches were performed for each of the other key articles. We reviewed each indexed publication citing one or more of these key articles for inclusion in our study, considering whether (1) the students represented in the research were between kindergarten and eighth grade and (2) whether summer loss was measured for an academic content area. We also searched several computerized databases for articles published since The databases included in our search were ERIC, JSTOR, ISI Web of Knowledge, and Google Scholar. Wherever possible, we made use of thesaurus terms, such as summer programs, pairing them with the keywords loss, slide, or gap ; ERIC identified 41, 47, and 29 publications, respectively (for a total of 117 citations). Through Google Scholar, we found 69 references that matched a search for summer program and academic achievement with the same sequence of loss-related keywords, and 23 of these references had been published between 2000 and JSTOR indexed 38 articles related to summer loss, and the ISI Web of Knowledge was used to find 19 articles that had been published since We reviewed the abstracts to determine whether each article contained some information or assessment of summer learning loss and whether it fit our inclusion guidelines. Chapter Two presents a more detailed discussion of the extent of summer learning loss, its cumulative effects, and differences by subject and grade level. Effectiveness of Summer Programs. We searched for rigorous studies documenting the effectiveness of summer programs. Cooper, Charlton, et al. (2000) carried out an extensive, rigorous meta-analysis of the summer learning research conducted through To be included in the analysis a program had to be provided by a school, school district, college, or university and have goals associated with preventing delinquency, improving academic performance, or improving attendance. The studies also had to compare the effects of attending versus not attending using a pre-post comparison or a comparison of outcomes between two groups; however, they were not

34 8 Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children s Learning required to have an experimental or quasi-experimental design. We designed our literature search to identify more recent rigorous studies. Other articles identified by searches of either Google Scholar or ERIC were considered for inclusion and for further review if the summer program described in the article (1) served students between kindergarten and eighth grade, (2) measured or evaluated academic achievement, and (3) was evaluated by an external party (or had been peer-reviewed) using a quasi-experimental design (a comparison group) or a randomized controlled trial. We found 13 studies of nine programs that met these criteria. We created a matrix to describe the range of these programs characteristics, including academic outcomes, the evaluation method, the student population, the control group, teacher qualifications, teacher training, student recruitment, hours of instruction, attendance rates, cost, curricula, and others. In addition to analyzing these studies for evidence on program effectiveness in general, we used Cooper, Nye, et al. s (1996) meta-analysis findings and findings from the more recent studies to examine summer learning program effectiveness based on program components and whether or not these programs were associated with differential effects based on student characteristics. We also consulted expert opinion found in the literature, such as that provided by the U.S. Department of Education, in search of promising program characteristics. Chapter Three discusses our findings on the effectiveness of summer programs in greater detail. Cost of Summer Programming. We consulted a variety of databases and online resources to review the literature on the financial resources required for academically oriented summer programming that targets disadvantaged children between kindergarten and eighth grade. To obtain an initial set of research documents for review, we searched four online databases: ERIC, JSTOR, ISI Web of Knowledge, and Google Scholar. In these databases we used search terms such as summer program or summer school paired with limiting terms, such as cost, cost-effectiveness, and sometimes academic achievement. Using the combinations of summer program and cost and sometimes achievement, JSTOR yielded 1,018 articles, ISI Web of Knowledge contained six articles, and ERIC offered 26 results. After excluding articles about higher education or specialized programming (such as music or outdoor education), we reviewed more than 120 abstracts to determine whether each article contained some information about the costs or sources of funds and whether it documented a program that met our criteria for full review: the given program (1) had an academic orientation and (2) served students in any grade between kindergarten and eighth. Chapter Four presents additional details on our approach to studying the cost of summer learning programs. In addition to academic journals, we also searched the websites of leading centers, advocates, and foundations that fund either summer school programs or research. These sites included The Wallace Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, the

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